The Wisdom of a Small US Government
(The following keeps in mind the Catholic Churches teaching on subsidiary, rights of individuals, rights of government and the preferential option for the poor.)
The old adage goes, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Our founding fathers knew just how demanding, greedy and cruel men in power can become. This should surprise no one, especially the Catholic Church whose priest hear confession. We know the weakness of man. We know the condition called concupiscence where man is weakened by his disordered passions and desires. We know that even the best and well intentioned of men cannot be trusted without limitations and checks and balances placed on him.
Unbridled power led to the Revolutionary War against England. Having won this war, the individual independent states came together to establish a union between them. This union would “establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” To accomplish this they wrote and signed a contract between them called the Constitution of the United Stated of America.
Recognizing that power should never be in the hands of one, they divided the 3 powers of legislative, judicial and executive between three branches of government called the Supreme Court, Congress and President. With this system in place, no one branch nor no one man can rule by itself or himself. If they try, the people have the final power called the voting booth.
To severely limit the power the US Government could exercise, the founding fathers wrote the 10th amendment. It states that those “powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This is referred to as the enumerated rights. If the US Government is not expressly given a right, then it has no right. Those rights not given to the federal government belong to the states or to the people.
We might become concerned here and think that the states will just become the abusive power in place of the US Government. But this is the wisdom of the Constitution. Each state is a country unto itself. It has it’s own government, it’s own taxes, it’s own laws, it’s own army (the national Guard), it’s own police, fire and rescue, it’s own infrastructure of roads, electric, water, sewer, pipe line and so on. If a state becomes burdensome, tyrannical, inefficient, does not meet the needs of the people, neglects justice, becomes unfriendly to business or what ever else, people can leave and go to another state. That means that states need to be competitive between each other, just as business must. A state will strive then to be the most competitive to get businesses to build there, to provide for the needs of the people, not over burden the people or businesses with oppressive laws and regulations. They will empower their people to be successful and not punish them when their hard work succeeds.
Another point to keeping power in the hands of the states is that people of one state will not be able to tell people of another state what they will or will not do. Think about it… The needs and condition of one state are not the same as those of another state. What California needs is not the same as what Michigan needs is not the same as what Florida needs. A one plan fits all fits no one and everyone gets frustrated. Each state needs to be free to look at, study and evaluate itself and determine for itself what is best for it. If they fail, then they bite the bullet together and will have to fix it together and suffer together until they do. It is not the task or right of one state to tell another state how to do it’s business. They are separate, individual and sovereign countries.
This is not to say that what happens in one state does not affect another state. For this reason the US Government is in place. They are to govern that which is mutual between the states. This includes:
- Protection of our boarders to other countries
- Protection from foreign enemies
- Common currency
- Natural resources
- Interstate highways, pipelines, electrical lines
- Water ways
- Air wave
- Air ways
- Migratory animals
- Interstate business and banking laws
- Regulation of food, medicine and medical practices to keep people safe
- To help negotiate between states when there are disagreements
With this plan the founding fathers did not intend that things like welfare, medical care and other things not take place. Rather, they knew that these things were better left to the state and better yet (subsidiary) to the local communities, businesses and organizations and the charity of individuals.
We note further in the 10th Amendment that there are some rights not enumerated for the US Government and that are seen as not left to the state but are the proper rights of the people. To name a few (the state has a shared right in some of these):
- To decide where one will live, to own property (land)
- To own possessions, material things
- To decide what one will do for a career
- To decide what religion they will practice
- To decide whom one will marry
- To decide how many children one will have
- To decide where one will be educated and to what degree
- To provide for their life, liberty and happiness.
- To save money or not
- To prepare oneself for retirement with a pension
- To keep and bear arms
- To protect and defend themselves from injustice
We can say that the Constitution is a contract that binds together at two levels. It binds states and it binds citizens. It establishes a government in one hand and protects the states and citizens in the other. The Constitution limits the influence of the US Government, its sphere of authority over states and citizens, by granting only enumerated rights. This leaves states free to care for it’s citizens by competing to be the best and so inspire people to want to live there.
It is this competitive component that has made America a great nation. It inspires states, business, and individuals to be their best. It promotes freedom and true liberty. It empowers and it liberates. The Church has agreed that Capitalism, having competition as one of its principals, is a good and acceptable system so long as greed is curbed and we maintain a preferential option for the poor (charity). Our system of government that insists on a small government also provides for subsidiary, leaving to the smallest, local entity to take care of these charitable needs. It is here that only the truly needy are cared for and the lazy slug is left to their own demise at no ones fault but their own. This too is Church teaching as Scripture says let him who does not work not eat.
Small and limited is good. It takes into account the human condition that will inevitably succumb to lesser and baser instincts with out these proper limitations. This way the good and well intentioned will remain so. Am I my brothers’ keeper? Yes. We all need to look out for one another and see to it that we are kept within proper parameters. This is for the good of the individual and the good of all those whose lives could be ruined or liberties that could be lost if men run amuck. It is the Christian thing to do. It is the human thing to do.